Rumor has it that I’m the critical type,* so you might guess that I’d turn my nose up at the announcement that BuzzFeed’s new books page will only post positive reviews.
But I’ve gotta be honest: wasting a lot of time working to discourage other people from liking what they like just isn’t my thing. Maybe that’s why I work in a job that’s all about telling people about new things they should love. Years after seeing a presentation by Tumblr creator David Karp, I still use as an example of creative genius that Tumblr was created without comments so that anyone who wants to add their two cents has to reblog—essentially putting their sentiments onto the page they own, which forces people to consider whether they want to be known by their vitriol. It’s a brilliant way around the problem that the internet is a toxic cesspit of anonymous rage, but it’s also a goal I can get behind.
I love a clever piece of writing as much as the next person, but reviewers who endeavor to destroy what they’ve read (or seen or heard or eaten) with the might of their pen just irk me. I never fall in love with the angry reviews that make the rounds, and I’m not sure I see the point in excoriating a thing that people worked hard to create. (Sure, they didn’t always work hard, but there’s only so much joy in taking down an easy target.) I mean, I’ve been known to bitch when something gets tons of praise heaped upon it that seems to miss every flaw that I found glaring (I’m looking at you, film adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook), but I’ve only ever looked at negative reviews when I’m looking to confirm that it is right and just for me to dislike a thing I already dislike.
Criticism is an art form, and I think negative critiques have their place, but to me it’s more of an academic need than a practical one. One of the reasons I don’t really read reviews is that I’m not terribly interested in what people who hate things have to say about them. I’ve never read a bad review and thought, “Oh, okay, I can skip that,” because it so often seems like the reviewer, be they a highly regarded professional or a person on Goodreads, has an axe to grind. Fortunately, for people like me, there’s BuzzFeed, and for anyone who wants an aggressive critique rather than simply an opportunity to find something new to check out there’s virtually the entirety of Kirkus and a certain someone at the New York Times.
*I prefer to think of myself as intellectually thorough.